WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. House Speaker John Boehner told Republican colleagues Wednesday he hasn't implemented a purge of conservative committee members.
The Republican Steering Committee, which the Ohio lawmaker heads, removed four GOP lawmakers from preferred committee assignments this week. But Boehner told colleagues during a closed-door meeting it didn't amount to a "conservative purge," Roll Call reported.
"The Steering Committee this week decided to remove committee assignments from four members, and replace them with other members. This was not done lightly. This is something the committee took seriously and hopes never to have to do again," the Washington publication said one attendee quoted Boehner as saying.
One member who was not among those who lost their committee assignments said those comments came across as a warning.
"It sure sounded threatening to me," the member said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conference deliberations. "He brought up the four people taken off committees and he said there's other people he's going to talk to."
Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, who lost his seat on the Financial Services Committee, said Boehner "indicated ... there were other names that could have been discussed. I'm paraphrasing but that's basically what he said."
Boehner rejected the notion the Steering Committee's action was a message targeting conservative members.
"The committee's decision had nothing to do with ideology. For those suggesting otherwise, I'd respectfully suggest that you look at some of the people the Steering Committee put in charge of committees," Boehner said. "I'd also suggest you look at some of the members who were added to the committees by the Steering Committee. If you do that and come away with the conclusion that there was a 'conservative purge,' I'd be interested [in] hearing the rationale."
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